Jill Kearney’s collection of short stories focuses on relationships and interactions between humans and animals. She manages to make her characters relatable, even when they are acting in unorthodox and sometimes unbearable circumstances. Her works are based on her experiences as a dog rescuer and an in-home care provider. Writers are told to write what they know, and it is apparent that she has done precisely that.
The stories illustrate the bonds between people and their pets, even those who have been chosen by the pets instead of the other way around. The title story pits a reluctant animal rescue officer against a middle-aged woman who fancies herself as being the more capable rescuer. Her attempts at rescuing dogs from a recluse who lives near a commune is fraught with danger and a bit of humor. Other stories in the collection are more vignettes than short stories, as the character development is cut short. Yet, even the shorter stories are packed with emotion and resonate with the impact of compassion and loss, with the exception of Arnie’s Last Ride, which veers awkwardly off its core story and into ruminations by the author. Beer Money explores the aftermath of a divorce, the damage caused by alcoholism, and its impact on the family pet.
Ordinary Housework and Circles are two excellent examples of Kearney’s storytelling acumen. In each, she allows the story to unfold naturally, while brilliantly moving the reader through the process of the characters’ growth into a well-constructed conclusion. Ordinary Housework involves another type of dog rescue with a surprising discovery along the way. Circles follows a girl into adulthood and middle age, while emphasizing important lessons learned along the way, including regrets that come with hindsight.
Overall, there is more to like than dislike, but the book is not well-edited and readers will find at least three incidents of misspelled or misused words. Considering Kearney is a former teacher, it is difficult to ignore this problem.
Jill Kearney’s ability to capture the human condition unflinchingly leads readers into the lives of unconventional characters through vignettes of unusual rescues and relationships in the THE DOG THIEF AND OTHER STORIES.
~Karen Collins for IndieReader